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Living The Quran

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From Issue: 997 [Read full issue]

Special Worship
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 183

"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa (God-consciousness)."

In our legal formulation, fasting is usually listed among the ritual acts of worship but here its rules and commandments are listed immediately after the laws on the sanctity of life and of property. Traditionally, one might argue, it should have been placed after the verse mentioning Prayer and infaq, spending in the cause of Allah. But obviously, the commandments in the Quran are not arranged as they are in our books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Rather, their arrangement is determined by considerations of the higher wisdom of the Islamic Shariah — the reformation of society, the purification of souls and the prevailing needs of society. The commandments on fasting focus on the worship that nourishes and encourages self-control and God-consciousness, to help human beings restrain their unbridled propensities for greed, provocation, revenge and incitement.

Fasting is the special worship prescribed in Islam to nurture taqwa and patience — the moral qualities that restrain people from aggression against others or violation of their rights. At the same time, fasting encourages them to work for birr (giving each what is justly due to him or her), ihsan (compassion and kindness) and truth and justice. The commandment about fasting here provides a basis for training in implementing the previous commandments. It also lays down a firm basis for continuing patience in carrying out subsequent laws including the prohibition of bribery and stipulations on Hajj and jihad. Thus the sequence in which the commandment about fasting is placed, and its context, makes its purpose quite clear. This context helps to explain why fasting is prescribed in Islam, what are its objectives and benefits, and how it affects our social life. The entire fabric of Divine law rests on taqwa, self-restraint or God-consciousness that is gained through the ability to control one's emotions and desires. Fasting is the best means of harnessing, training and refining this ability and control.

The Muslim community is not the first or the only one for whom fasting has been prescribed. In fact, fasting has always formed a part of all revealed laws as a special worship for achieving self-control. This reference here is merely to dispel any anxiety from the minds of ordinary people. By informing them that fasting is nothing new, they are encouraged to embrace it and benefit from it.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

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